Navratilov­a leads the trib­utes to Bri­tish pi­o­neer An­gela Bux­ton

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Tennis - By Si­mon Briggs

Ten­nis has lost one of its most un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated cham­pi­ons in An­gela Bux­ton, the Bri­tish player who has passed away at the age of 85.

Bux­ton won the 1956 women’s dou­bles event at Wim­ble­don and also reached the sin­gles fi­nal in the same year. Even so, she never re­ceived an hon­orary mem­ber­ship from the All Eng­land Club – an omis­sion that Bux­ton her­self at­trib­uted to anti-Semitism.

Bri­tish ten­nis in the 1950s was a largely mono­cul­tural busi­ness un­til Bux­ton came along. Her Jewish fa­ther, Harry, was a street hus­tler in Leeds un­til he mas­tered the art of prof­itable gam­bling at casi­nos.

The young An­gela learnt much of her ten­nis craft in South Africa, where the fam­ily shel­tered dur­ing the Blitz. But de­spite be­ing one of Eng­land’s lead­ing play­ers in the 1950s, she was never ac­cepted by the es­tab­lish­ment.

This may ex­plain Bux­ton’s de­ci­sion to team up with Althea Gib­son in 1956, the sum­mer they won Wim­ble­don’s dou­bles event to­gether. Five years ear­lier, Gib­son – a tall and pow­er­ful ath­lete from South Carolina – had be­come the first black woman to play at Wim­ble­don. As Bux­ton told The Tele­graph last year: “Althea was still fight­ing the black bar­rier. I re­mem­ber her sit­ting on the side­line when I was play­ing the 1956 Wight­man Cup against Amer­ica at Wim­ble­don. I was think­ing, ‘What the hell is she sit­ting there for?’ One of the best play­ers in the world and she wasn’t cho­sen.”

Bux­ton had also won the French Open dou­bles with Gib­son a few months ear­lier. This was the best sum­mer of her ca­reer, but in the fi­nal of the sin­gles com­pe­ti­tion Amer­i­can Shirley Fry proved too strong in a rou­tine 6-3, 6-1 win to deny Bux­ton a Wim­ble­don dou­ble.

The ex­pla­na­tion for why Bux­ton never re­ceived an All Eng­land Club mem­ber­ship is un­clear. Some say that she moved quickly into pro­fes­sional coach­ing af­ter a hand in­jury ended her ca­reer in 1957 – and that pro­fes­sion­als were not wel­come at the All Eng­land club. Bux­ton claimed in an in­ter­view last year that the last time she asked the club about it was in 1988.

“They said I had re­fused it and my mem­ber­ship had gone to the back of the queue. I never re­fused it and there are so many play­ers who didn’t do any­thing like me and got mem­ber­ship.”

It also seems that, in her play­ing days, Bux­ton was re­fused mem­ber­ship by the Cum­ber­land Club – the West Hamp­stead in­sti­tu­tion which re­cently pro­duced Bri­tish No 3 Har­riet Dart. And that was only part of the story. “The South­port club wouldn’t let me prac­tise there,” she said. “Even though I was No 1 in Eng­land, so a mem­ber took me there as his guest. I took great de­light in win­ning their tour­na­ment.”

In a state­ment, the All Eng­land Club said: “The AELTC was deeply saddened to hear of An­gela’s pass­ing and of­fers con­do­lences to her fam­ily and friends. Her con­tri­bu­tion to The Cham­pi­onships, in par­tic­u­lar her part­ner­ship with Althea Gib­son, will be long re­mem­bered. While the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process for mem­ber­ship of the All Eng­land Club is a pri­vate mat­ter, we strongly re­fute any sug­ges­tion that race or re­li­gion plays a fac­tor.”

Martina Navratilov­a, the nine­time Wim­ble­don sin­gles cham­pion, tweeted: “RIP An­gela Bux­ton, a cham­pion on the court and a cham­pion of hu­man rights off the court.”

Great team: An­gela Bux­ton (right), who has died aged 85, with her Wim­ble­don dou­bles part­ner Althea Gib­son af­ter win­ning the tro­phy in 1956

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.